As many women realize after giving birth, shedding those extra pounds you packed on while you were pregnant is not so easy. In fact, the International Journal of Obesity notes that gaining more than 8 lbs. post-pregnancy is common. Unfortunately, postpartum weight gain is associated with a number of health issues. So if you find yourself gaining excessive weight after your pregnancy, remember to eat right, exercise and talk with your doctor.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) found that the post-pregnancy period is one of of the three periods in a woman’s life in which she is most at risk for weight gain. Statistically, if a women does not lose the extra weight within 6 months after giving birth, she will likely keep those extra pounds, increasing the risk of complications in later pregnancies.
After pregnancy, most women gain some weight. But the UAB researchers found that women who were obese before their pregnancy were at risk for a more substantial weight gain. Ethnicity seems to play a role as well. In the same study the researchers found that African-American women are at a greater risk for substantial weight gain than Caucasian women.
One cause of postpartum weight gain is due to thyroid abnormalities. A Japanese study published in “Clinical Endocrinology” found that 5 to 10 percent of pregnant women develop an inflammation known as postpartum thyroiditis (PPD). Symptoms of PPD include fatigue, aches and pains, and an inability to lose weight. A different study conducted by Harvard University found that lack of sleep for new mothers–less than 5 hours per night–can lead to weight retention of 11 pounds or more.
The “International Journal of Obesity” has found a number of other factors that contribute to weight gain after pregnancy, including socioeconomic factors like low income. The journal also found that high weight gain during pregnancy is a definite factor in a woman’s difficulty to lose weight after her pregnancy. Quitting smoking, which women often do when they learn of their pregnancy, may also play a role in postpartum weight gain. Other research suggests that the sooner a women returns to work outside her home after her pregnancy, the higher her weight loss.
Postpartum weight gain can lead to type 2 diabetes, a chronic and incurable condition that affects the way your body breaks down glucose, or sugar. Gaining weight after your pregnancy can also increase your risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death for people in the United States, and increase the risk of complications in later pregnancies.